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In the Book:

  • Anti-Climax Boss: As in the series, there is a lot of emphasis on Clay being on Hannah's suicide tape. When it finally comes time for The Reveal...even Hannah admits Clay doesn't belong on the tapes.
  • Broken Base: There was debate over the book's handling of suicide before the series came out, but with its release and controversy the novel fell back under scrutiny. Some feel it handled the subject matter better than the series with the issue of suicide not subject to what those critics feel was the more exploitative direction of the show. Others feel that the book had the same problems the show had with regards to how it presented suicide in a way that they felt romanticized it. A third group viewed the series as the better handling of the story with characters expanded upon more and the tragedy given a stronger focus.
  • Family-Unfriendly Aesop: Imagine how these tapes would haunt the individuals for the rest of their lives. The creation of these tapes makes Hannah seem worse than those who hurt her. Well, some of them...
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    • The story (minus the last 2 or 3 pages) is a towering monument to Hannah's suicide. The story displays how Hannah's suicide had exactly the effect she wanted, namely revenge on everyone who had hurt her, glossing over the fact that Hannah is around to experience exactly none of it, and thus she can derive no satisfaction. That is, until the end, when Clay is desperately hoping that Mr. Porter will succeed in stopping Hannah's suicide, even though it's already happened.
    • Probably there are more Karma Houdini characters involved, except those who broke the law. A lot of people can easily justify Never My Fault, like Marcus or Zach. Probably Mr. Porter will turn in Jennifer and Bryce after hearing the tapes, but there would probably be a Blame the Victim mentality.
  • Fanon: A lot of fans assumed Hannah to be a blonde, due to the girl on the cover being blonde. Her hair colour is never mentioned in the book. Katherine Langford and Selena Gomez (who was in talks to play Hannah when the book was first up for adaptation) are both brunettes.
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  • Harsher in Hindsight: Jay Asher was accused of sexual harassment in 2018 and dropped by his publisher, though he continues to deny it.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: In the book, Clay listens to the tapes in one night — you might say 'binge watching' them. The book ends up getting adapted into a Netflix series — which is synonymous with people binge watching TV shows. What's more is that in the series, Clay drags them out over a number of weeks rather than listening to them in one go.
  • Periphery Demographic: This book was remarkably popular amongst teenagers who'd admitted to not being avid readers, and people who in general were not young adult fiction fans.
  • Ho Yay: Invoked by Hannah and a friend at one point in order to bait a peeping tom into a situation where they could catch him. It left Hannah no less emotionally broken than right after she'd found out that she would even be hounded in the one place where she felt safe — her bedroom.
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  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic: Some people feel this way about Hannah. A lot of readers felt like the tapes Hannah sent out were cruel and spiteful. She potentially ruined those people's lives by implying that they were the reasons she killed herself. While some are understandable, like Bryce Walker, most of the others come off as trivial to adults, and then there is the case of Clay himself, who had his sanity pushed to the breaking point and beyond before he ultimately found out by Hannah's own admission he actually didn't do anything wrong, and was merely included simply to tie the story together. In a nutshell, Hannah straight up subjected her most loyal friend to mental torment simply out of narrative convenience. This may be part of the book's main Aesop: you should really be careful about what you do and who you do it to. To you it may seem trivial, but you can't be sure how the person and those around them will react. This is also very much Truth in Television; Lack of Empathy is one of the main causes of bullying. However, that only makes Hannah's complete disregard in how her tapes would have affected the lives of the people she sent them to worse.
  • The Un-Twist: Will Clay, the Dogged Nice Guy, turn out to have secretly hurt Hannah or participated in her pain, even if unknowingly? Is he an Unreliable Narrator? Nope...he doesn't belong on the tapes.
  • The Woobie:

In the Series:

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    A - C 
  • Actor Shipping: Brandon Flynn (Justin) and Miles Heizer (Alex) are shipped together by fans. Also Brandon and Alisha Boe (Jessica) due to their on-screen couple.
  • Adaptation Displacement: Most people know it was a book first, but the series is far more popular (and controversial) than the book ever was.
  • Angst? What Angst?: After a whole season of built up trying to find out who killed Bryce, the motive behind it, and watching other characters in grief from it. None of the main group react in horror, disgust, shock or are even conflicted when it is revealed to be Alex. They even willingly cover it up, and frame Monty. This is especially jarring in Clay's case as Alex was willing to let him go down for the murder and even spent a few days in jail while Alex did nothing to try to clear his name.
  • Anti-Climax Boss: Clay's role on the tapes is built up to be a dark reveal, with several characters mentioning ominously how "he is not so innocent" and how he should listen to his own tape before blaming others. Tony even goes as far as to state that in his opinion Clay killed Hannah Baker. Cue the tape and we learn that albeit Clay possibly could have saved Hannah from despair if he acted differently, he in fact did nothing wrong. And Hannah even admits that he doesn't belong on the tapes and is only put there because without him the story wouldn't be complete.
  • Anvilicious: The show has several fairly anvilicious aesops, all of them likely intentional; some might view them as cases of Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped.
    • Slut-shaming is bad: The original root of all of Hannah's ordeal was the rampant slut-shaming that she was subjected to all the time, based on a rumor.
    • Sexual entitlement is bad: The straight boys have the tendency to let their dicks do their thinking for them and feel entitled to sex with the girls (usually it's Hannah, but at times it's other girls as well), resorting to underhanded dick moves or worse when they don't get their way.
    • Objectification is bad: Especially driven home with the "Hot or Not List", where Hannah suddenly gets a lot of unwanted attention for her looks.
    • Frat-boys are the worst: The frat jocks, already designated villains in most stories, arguably come off as even worse than usual: users, abusers, molesters, and even actual rapists.
    • Homophobia is bad: Courtney's backstabbing is motivated by her fear of being outed as a lesbian (which is ultimately the consequence of societal homophobia). Later, Hannah gets that treatment after she's thrown under the bus by Courtney.
    • Being forced to conform to gender roles is bad: Alex's attempt to ingratiate himself with the jock squad is motivated by his past experiences as being other people's punching bag for not conforming to traditional norms of masculinity.
    • Victim blaming is bad: While the questions asked by Mr. Porter aren't exactly outlandish from the perspective of a person who doesn't know whether someone reporting a rape is entirely truthful or embellishing things instead; from the perspective of an actual victim (which Hannah was) him questioning her account of the events qualified as refusing her the support she sorely needed at that point and was basically the final nail in her coffin.
    • Suicide is not a solution: Arguably the most important message of this show. By committing suicide, Hannah left a lot of people who loved her devastated. Moreover, even though she created to tapes to explain why she did it and probably get her antagonists punished, she isn't around anymore to gain satisfaction from it. If instead she confided in her parents, Clay or a real professional therapist, they probably would have been able to help her.
    • Doubles with Accidental Aesop, but never hesitate with telling someone you love him/her. You might never get the chance anymore.
  • Alternate Character Interpretation:
    • Take yourself out of Hannah's POV when it comes to Zach's tape. There's a girl you like who has just been humiliated by one of your friends. You attempt to be nice to her and make her feel better. Then the next day, you actually try to confess that you like her. She responds by screaming at you in public and humiliating you — essentially what happened to her that she felt was so horrible. In fact, most of what Hannah says about Zach appears to be based off pure speculation. Though it's important to remember that Zach has also stood idly by (and at times, joined in) while his friends bullied and sexually harassed Hannah, which makes her reaction more understandable. Yet another thing to remember is that Zach is close friends with Justin, Marcus, and Alex, who all initially seemed nice as well before they screwed Hannah over. In regards to the note, there's a possibility that considering Hannah's mental state, she probably thought she saw Zach rip her note. For all we know, Zach probably pocketed her note but ripped another one left in his bag. Another theory could be she just assumed he ripped it due to her mentality that all jocks are assholes.
    • The list of the people on the tapes Hannah made has several names that were crossed out or who ultimately didn't get sent the tapes. One has to wonder what their reasons were. Among them include Kat — for moving away? Introducing her to Justin? Not being there for her? Mrs. Antilli as well — introducing her to Jessica? Going to a different school and not being able to help her?
    • It's possible to see Ryan publishing Hannah's poem without her consent as him trying to help Hannah realize her talent and come out of her shell rather than simply being a Jerkass with no respect for her privacy. He may not have realized how personal the poem was or anticipated the kind of response it would get.
    • Tyler was a lonely, heavily bullied kid with No Social Skills, so his stalking of Hannah might have been less predatory and more of a poorly-conceived attempt at reaching out to her. Especially since he didn't seem to understand why Hannah rejected his offer to hang out directly after being handed a card full of photographs he took of her without her consent.
    • While Bryce's actions are obviously monstrous and indefensible, it may be possible to view his character in a more complex light. It's true that Bryce shows no remorse for raping Jessica and Hannah (and likely other girls at Liberty High), but this may be because he genuinely doesn't understand that he's done anything wrong. When Justin reveals to Jessica what happened to her in front of their friends, Bryce seems more hurt by his best friend calling him a rapist than angry about his crimes being revealed. He also displays what appears to be a truly incredible level of obliviousness when he texts Jessica, "Are you okay?" in the aftermath of Justin's revelation. Finally, when Clay confronts him over his rape of Hannah, Bryce seems to really believe his sickening misogynistic justifications (i.e. "Girls play games", "she was asking for it", etc.) During their depositions, both Jessica and Kat say that it is the attitude of the school and its faculty that have helped give jocks like Bryce such an enormous sense of entitlement, which extends to their treatment of their female classmates. While none of this, in any way, reduces the magnitude of his crimes, or minimizes the trauma of his victims, Bryce may be less of a monster, and more Obliviously Evil, as a product of the larger societal issues of ingrained misogyny and male entitlement. There's also debate for some that Bryce did have a genuine good friendship with Hannah when she first came to school (and even showed her the clubhouse every jock uses) and the two seemed close, but when Bryce made it clear he wanted to be more than friends, Hannah made it clear she just wanted to remain friends. Makes one wonder if Bryce's motivations at assaulting Hannah are either lust or refusal to accept his "old friend" didn't want to be with him.
    • The way in which Courtney tries to stay in the closet is extremely misguided to say the least, and has severe repercussions and most people see her as just The Scrappy, however, if you actually think about it, everything she does in the series is completely understandable, despite how bad some of it is. Especially if you've ever been in her shoes. She panics and stops wanting to be Hannah's friend because she feels completely humiliated and ashamed after accidentally outing herself to her, she lies and spreads a rumor that Hannah is gay because she isn't even ready to admit to herself that she's gay, she believes that Hannah is lying about the rapes because not only does Jessica herself insist Hannah is lying, Hannah has just outed her and it's the only way she can even try to stay closeted.
    • Bryce Walker gets this again in season 3. While he's certianly fleshed out, comes to regret being a rapist and who he is, and makes an effort to change, one wonders if part of it steams from wanting to salvage his own reputation or make himself feel better. Even in light of seeing his human side, we see Bryce is also the same manipulative swarmy villain he was seen previously, such as trying to keep Alex in check by offering him a prostitute, and generally continues to antagonize Zach and Clay. Even his Heel Realization comes into question as he admits to feeling the same violent and sexual desires towards Ani; threatens a small childs life; and during his early Villainous Breakdown tries to cripple Zach because he felt he was still entitled to Chloe, and blames him for ruining his future. During his later breakdown he curses at and threatens both Zach and Jessica, whom he is revealed to have previously reached out too when he wanted to atone. This begs the question if he was ultimately capable of changing, even if he wanted too.
    • The revelation of Monty being gay in season three potentially paints a lot of his earlier actions in a different light. Was Monty's relationship with Bryce purely platonic? Or did Monty have a secret crush on him? Throughout the second season Monty goes to disturbingly great lengths to keep Bryce's victims from testifying against him. Lengths that exceed what a mere "friend" would do. On a similar note, did he have a crush on Tyler? Throughout the series, Monty takes almost any opportunity to touch Tyler or get in his personal space, as shown by the numerous times he's pushed him against a locker. Was his rape of Tyler in the school bathroom fueled purely by spite or did he get some sort of sick sexual pleasure out of it? Monty's canonical lover, Winston does bare a resemblance to Tyler and is a photographer as well, implying that he may have a type
  • Author's Saving Throw:
    • To the readers who found Hannah Unintentionally Unsympathetic in the book (see above), her actions are framed in a very grey light in the miniseries. Numerous other characters also claim she's lying or distorting the truth. Katherine Langford also makes sure that Hannah in the flashbacks looks like a very effective Woobie — showing that while some of her actions may be selfish, she still has a hell of a reason for them. For how successful this was, check Base-Breaking Character.
    • As noted under Hollywood Law, the Season 1 finale treats the reveal of the tapes as a trump card for the Bakers' case. When Season 2 picks up, it shows that Bryce easily disputed the accusations against him, the legitimacy of them as evidence is talked about and the trial is seen as far more complicated.
    • Many viewers and critics found Hannah unsympathetic in the first season for various reasons, including seeming bitchy, jumping to conclusions and being whiny. Season 2 showed flashbacks of Hannah that indicated that she was much kinder, and in some cases, this made her reactions to certain betrayals make more sense (for example, her encounter with Courtney ended far less awkwardly and saw Hannah comfort Courtney with a kiss. It made Courtney's throwing her under the bus seem much more cruel.)
    • Following all the controversy and criticism around Hannah's graphic suicide in Season 1, in 2019 it was announced that Netflix was heavily editing the scene (the scene no longer shows Hannah's suicide in detail, instead cutting from Hannah staring into the bathroom mirror to her parents finding her body). The showrunners and producers made this decision after consulting with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
  • Awesome Music: The series is well-scored with some indie rock and a bit of classic rock thrown in.
    • Vance Joy's "Mess Is Mine" plays at the end of the first episode and sums up Clay's state of mind trying to deal with Hannah's death. It's a perfect Alone in a Crowd moment, with the image of Hannah disappearing into the sea of scattered kids walking to class.
    • Lord Huron's "The Night We Met" is used prominently, particularly in relation to Hannah and Clay's friendship. It's the perfect melancholic, nostalgic, remorseful ode to what could have happened, but never did.
    • “Back To You”, the lead single of the second season’s soundtrack, as sung by executive producer Selena Gomez.
  • Base-Breaking Character:
    • Justin is a divisive character as well; some fans claim that he hasn't atoned for or even can't be redeemed for his actions, others believe that his troubled home life and glimpses of remorse make him fully sympathetic and a third camp feel that while his sad backstory and moments of guilt make his redemption possible, he simply hasn't yet put forth enough action to atone for his misdeeds and waited far too long to do so.
    • Hannah herself. Some believe that she's a good person who tries to do the right thing but always comes out on the wrong end, making her insecure and isolated. Some believe that Hannah already was in a state of depression and low self-esteem and that the incidents just pushed her across the Despair Event Horizon. Others believe that Hannah overreacted to relatively minor setbacks, given that she doesn't suffer to the extent of other characters (ex. she's not continually bullied like Tyler) or bad enough in general that it would warrant suicide. Furthermore Hannah made a lot of poor choices without acknowledging them, like wanting to party with the popular crowd even after knowing how it could go wrong and pushing away those who tried to connect with her. In this view, she blames everyone for her suicide except the most important person: Herself. She didn't do anything while Jessica was raped which might be understandable, but she also didn't report it afterwards. See Unintentionally Unsympathetic for how fans reacted to the creation of the tapes. Depending on who you ask, either Hannah is a big Woobie or someone who really should have gotten her act together. There's a third camp who feels that she works as a character because she comes across as a realistic person and like that the show doesn't turn her into a saint just because she died.
    • Clay. Many believe that he's sensitive, virtuous, always tries to do the right thing and can't catch a break, that his lashing out is relatively justified considering the Trauma Conga Line he's had to endure over the past year. They also see that, especially in the first season, he seems to be the only person who actually cares about doing the right thing rather than protecting the right people. Others see him as an entitled, whiny and aggressive "nice guy" who treats his own friends like dirt, doesn't trust anyone but still expects people to help him, makes his parents' life hell and gets off way too easy for some of the more awful things he does. Others point out that his vindication at the end of Season 2 is totally unearned; he's treated by Hannah's parents, his classmates and the show itself like he was Hannah's boyfriend, despite only kissing her once. As Season 2 shows that Hannah had equally special relationships with Tony, Justin, Zach and others, that Clay getting selected to deliver the eulogy makes it seem like everything has simply led to Clay getting closure, with no concern for anyone else. It's especially stark considering Zach, who actually had a real relationship with Hannah and made her very happy at the time simply sits off to the side as a "former friend."
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: Tony has Clay free-solo an outdoor wall that is around 50 feet high when Clay admits to have never climbed anything before —- even indoors. It’s hard enough to believe that Tony can solo this perfectly, let alone an unathletic kid with no climbing experience, shoes or overall outdoor know-how. Just his buddy and some chalk.
  • Broken Base:
    • There's a division in the base over Hannah's treatment of Clay, for some it's "good-natured teasing" and perhaps a form of flirting. For others, this teasing is quite imbalanced, to the point that, during the first half of the show, every other conversation between them has her criticizing something in him, like his social skills. As a result, she comes across as verbally abusive. And there's also her putting Clay in the tapes at all, as that clearly messed him up for life, even though she knew he did nothing wrong, solely to make sure that things went according to her plan.
    • How much blame does Justin really deserve for Jessica's rape? True, he is definitely guilty of covering for the rapist. But as for the rape itself, Justin was almost as drunk as Jessica and he did try to stop Bryce, who then simply threw him out and locked the door. Given Justin's intoxication and trauma at the time it's possible he was just unable to act, just as Hannah was because of her fear - and that her decision to blame her on the tapes might have been partially based on her own guilt for not intervening. And even if Justin were to blame for his inaction, making him the target of the tape instead of the actual rapist seems excessive.
    • The depiction of Hannah's suicide for some viewers, in particular considered the biggest criticism against the show. Some people agreed with the intentions of the creators that it shows the brutal reality of suicide and is intended to be hard to watch. Others felt it was needlessly graphic, could potentially traumatize vulnerable viewers or worse, serve as a 'how to' guide. It doesn't help that the suicide in the show is changed from the book (in the show, Hannah is shown cutting her wrists in a bathtub, whilst in the book, it's simply mentioned she took a fatal overdose).
    • The rape of Tyler in Season 2 is shaping up to be quite controversial and divisive. It's very graphic, prolonged and some viewers ultimately felt it came across as unnecessary shock value. According to Word of God they were trying to depict that rape victims aren't always female, but then also said it was done to make the audience sympathise with Tyler (who up to this point has mostly been a bit of a creep who stalks and takes pictures of people - some of which are explicit in nature - without their consent). He is subsequently driven to try and shoot-up the school, but we're apparently supposed to be on his side. While some viewers appreciated the message they were trying to get across, others felt the scene was still too graphic or that Tyler didn't have to become a victim of rape (he was already an outcast who is regularly bullied and wanted revenge for what happened to Hannah) to go as far as he did. Others have pointed out it's potentially problematic to sympathetically portray school shooters, especially considering that Season 2 was released the same day a real incident took place at an American high school, or to make it seem as though being bullied and/or sexually assaulted makes you a school shooter. Others simply felt it the way it was portrayed came across as Narmy melodrama that they couldn't take seriously.
  • Catharsis Factor:
    • Bryce's death can come off as this for many people. In spite of it being portrayed more as an Alas, Poor Villain death, it is still satisfying to finally see him powerless and helpless after two seasons of evading justice for his actions.
    • The same goes for Monty's death. While it too was played for sympathy, you can't help but feel just a little bit content to see him first being arrested, then spat on, then killed (albeit offscreen) after everything he did (including and ESPECIALLY the broomstick rape of Tyler) and got away with.

    D - L 
  • Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy: The series, well-known for its controversy, has earned a reputation for becoming increasingly dark over the years.
    • In the first season, all the episodes are painful flashbacks of how Hannah suffered a horrible Trauma Conga Line as she explains the reasons why she ended her life. It becomes harder to watch it get worse and worse and the frustrating perspective of the audience feeling like Clay with nobody explaining anything along with a Black and White Morality setting for most of the characters. There's also the fact that each time you feel Hannah gets better, you're hit with the reminder that she's dead. Worse is the setting of Liberty High.
    • The second season upped the ante so much that many online discussions of the series have people who genuinely liked the show crowded out by arguments between people who felt the show was trying too hard and sending the wrong message to the point of offensiveness, and those who found the second season's darker plot twists and dramatic moments unintentionally hilarious and bizarre.
    • Season 3 certainly makes this point worse, with some of the show's most evil characters being humanized and the good guys doing questionable things. In short, the cast does not offer many characters one can truly root for. A common criticism of this season is that the storyline has become so dark and depressing that many viewers may end up giving up the series.
  • Designated Hero:
    • Clay's motives are virtuous throughout most of the series, which might explain why his photographing and subsequent circulation of a nude Tyler is mentioned for maybe one episode. Circulating actual child pornography out of revenge is not treated nearly as badly as creating a list of the hottest girls in school. Oh, and Clay never apologizes. Neither the characters in-universe nor fans of the show seem to think Clay's actions warrant much criticism. In Season 2 however he is called out for that by the school's litigator - who essentially calls him a Hypocrite.
    • Tony, who spends virtually the whole of the first series preaching, and we find out in Season 2 that, despite his Holier Than Thou attitude, he actually has a nasty temper and has gotten into fights. Some viewers also took issue with his role in facilitating Hannah's plan with the tapes. He goes ahead with it rather than taking them to police or another adult who could actually do something about it, and while a few people on the tapes deserved to be shamed for their actions (such as Bryce), many others were just as vulnerable as Hannah and were arguably only indirectly involved and/or made mistakes rather than being intentionally malicious, but Tony seems to have few qualms about blaming them for Hannah's suicide and contributing to their own deterioting mental states. It's especially bad in the cases of Jessica and Clay. In handing out the tapes he reveals to a bunch of people that Jessica was sexually assaulted (she herself has amnesia of that night and doesn't even realize she was raped until she gets the tapes) and threatens to release this information publically. Clay is severely messed up by his inclusion in the tapes and Tony even claims that in his opinion, Clay was responsible for Hannah's death, only for it to turn out that Hannah didn't blame Clay at all and simply wanted to explain her reasons to him. For all Tony preaches about how people should think about how their actions may negatively affect others, he himself didn't seem to think of that when he sent out the tapes and it could even be argued he causes or worsens a lot of the problems in the series by trying to be a vigilante hero.  His own reasons for handing out the tapes is because he feels guilty about not noticing Hannah's mental state and believing he could've saved her; while this is understandable, it can also come off as him caring only about the feelings of himself and Hannah more than anyone else.
  • Designated Villain: Clay's mother, Lainey, has gotten a fair amount of hate by fans, both for how smothering she can be to Clay and the fact that she merely does her job by defending the school in the Bakers' litigation. While she is admittedly smothering of Clay, he's not exactly honest and open with him, and she is admittedly pretty forgiving with him considering he pulls everything from random disappearances to keying a $60,000 car. She also expresses clear discomfort with having to destroy Hannah's reputation and decides instead to just focus on the school not being aware of Hannah's treatment. Which, in fairness, they weren't (whether it was right or not).
  • Do Not Do This Cool Thing: The series came under fire for what some perceived to glamorize suicide, noting that the idea of killing oneself to make others in their life feel guilty about their demise was a troublesome plot device, while glossing over other factors that lead to suicide beyond bullying, like suffering from mental illness and/or lack of sufficient coping mechanisms. The National Association of School Psychologists even sent a letter to school mental health professionals in regards to the show, an unprecedented step for the association.
    NASP: Research shows that exposure to another person's suicide, or to graphic or sensationalized accounts of death, can be one of the many risk factors that youth struggling with mental health conditions cite as a reason they contemplate or attempt suicide.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • Jeff is very popular in the fandom for being a Lovable Jock in a sea of Jerk Jocks. His friendship with Clay is very sweet and genuine.
    • Much like Jeff, Charlie-Saint George for subverting the stereotype that all jocks are utter assholes. Despite being friends with Monty, he never goes along with any of his obnoxious bullying and is thoroughly against what he did to Tyler.
    • Winston. For being the only character capable of bringing out the human side of Montgomery de la Cruz. Him calling out Ani for framing Monty is considered a very satisfying Take That, Scrappy!. Many are hoping that he plays an active role in the fourth season with trying to clear Monty's name.
  • Fandom Rivalry: Among all the Netflix shows that were renewed when Sense8 wasn't, the fans came down especially hard on this one as being less deserving of another season, as there's no more source material to draw on and consequently there seems to not be much of anywhere the story can go from that point to justify a whole second season.
  • Fan-Preferred Couple:
    • Clay and Sherri became this immediately after their study make-out session.
    • Clay/Hannah, Clay/Skye, and Clay/Tony are also fan favorite couples.
    • Alex/Justin has quite a following as well thanks to the chemistry between the actors, likely due to their real-life closeness.
    • Zach/Hannah is a popular pairing, if fan vids are anything to go by. Especially after the reveal that they had spent some time together and even lost their virginities to each other, the summer before Hannah killed herself.
    • Zach/Alex, after their friendship was explored and strengthened in Season Two, with the two of them having a LOT of Ho Yay.
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment: In Season 1, Justin and Jessica dress up as Sid and Nancy, with the joke being Justin doesn't know their story and how it ended. This becomes less funny in Season 2, when Justin has become addicted to heroin like Sid Vicious, who famously died from a heroin overdose.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • At Jessica's party, Hannah and Clay both say "I'm never getting old". Of course, Hannah never will.
    • Season 2 was released the exact same day as a mass shooting at Santa Fe High School.
    • In Season 1 Hannah compares herself to Jessica, wondering if she could be as pretty. In Season 2 Jessica compares herself to Hannah, noting that Hannah is a preferred victim to herself (as a white girl).
    • In Season 1, at Jess’s party, Hannah tells Clay that her parents “don’t see [her] seeing them.” In Season 2 we find out that she has already seen found out her father has been having an affair.
    • As Jessica even points out, quite a few of Justin’s scenes become a lot harder to watch after the reveal in Season 3 that he was molested/raped as a child. In particular, Jessica telling Justin that she “hopes [he] never knows what it feels like to be raped.”
    • Ani's actress Grace Saif deleted her social media after being harassed online by some fans who didn't like the character...even though one of the main themes of the show they're fans of is how harmful and wrong bullying is.
  • Heartwarming in Hindsight: A fan fiction called '13 Reasons Why Not' existed shortly after the release of the first season. In the second season finale it's revealed that Hannah had written a list of reasons why she shouldn't kill herself too.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • A (very popular) Crack Ship between characters named Justin and Alex note  in a Selena Gomez show? Again?
    • In Season One of Riverdale Ross Butler played a Jerk Jock who accused the resident Lovable Jock of helping the outcasted loner murder another jock. In Season Three of Thirteen Reasons Why, Ross Butler plays a Lovable Jock who is accused of helping the outcasted loner murder another jock by the resident Jerk Jock.
  • Ho Yay:
    • After taking Clay rock climbing, Tony tells Clay that he's gay, and that his boyfriend's upset with him because he's constantly hanging out with Clay. Clay remarks that it's different between them than it is between Tony and his boyfriend. Tony gives Clay a look and says "Sure" before walking off.
    • Considerably a lot between Clay and Justin in the Season 2 finale. They even go to the High-School Dance together.
    • Alex and Zach spend a lot of time in swimsuits together in Season 2. It's for Alex's PT but there's also the scene in the Season 2 finale where Zach teaches Alex how to dance.
  • Hype Backlash: The show was very successful with critics and audiences but quickly became rather controversial. The most common criticisms are that Hannah is Unintentionally Unsympathetic, that the story is unbelievable or unrealistic, and that the show "glamorizes" or "romanticizes" suicide.
  • Iron Woobie:
    • Clay, Clay, Clay, dear god with what he endures and the fact his tape confirms that he didn't do really anything wrong (hell, his "crime" is little more than doing exactly what someone is supposed to do when their partner says "no" to sex) and Hannah even states that he was on the tapes because he was the only one who treated her like a person and also because he was "part of her story" makes you wanna hug him. Season 2 made him more of a Woobie with his struggle and Sanity Slippage with seeing Hannah everywhere and losing Skye after she decides to break up with him due to his aforementioned breakdowns (as well as seeking psychiatric help) and trying to get Hannah justice admist of his meltdowns.
    • Alex, especially he's the only one who wants to take responsibility for what happened to Hannah.
  • It Was His Sled:
    • From Season 1, Hannah overheard Bryce raping Jessica and was too scared to intervene, Clay is on the tapes because Hannah wanted to apologize and doesn't actually blame him at all, the catalyst for Hannah's suicide was Bryce raping her, episode 13 graphically depicts Hannah's suicide (at least until the scene was heavily edited in 2019) and the tapes end up being leaked.
    • From Season 2, Bryce is confirmed to be a Serial Rapist who gets only three months probation for raping Jessica, Monty is the one trying to shut everyone up and Tyler is raped by Monty and tries to commit a school shooting, but is stopped by Clay.
  • Jerkass Woobie:
    • Oddly enough, Zach. Like all the others, he wants to hide the fact he had a hand in Hannah's death... but it's obvious from his own behavior with Alex and revealing to Clay that he kept Hannah's letter from his tape that he does feel immense remorse over playing a part. His mother's controlling nature doesn't help either. The fact it's revealed his mother pretends everything is okay despite the fact his dad died and he and Hannah had a loving relationship, along with the fact he was the one sending the Polaroids to Clay so he could bring his "friends" to justice since he, in his own words, "is a fucking coward", makes it more heart breaking.
    • Tyler. Yes, he's a creeper and played a part in Hannah's death by stalking her and causing Hannah to lose Courtney as a friend, but you do gotta feel for the poor guy who's basically treated as The Friend No One Likes due to being the Camera Fiend. Clay makes it worse by taking a naked picture of him through his window without his consent and sending it to everyone in a misguided attempt at getting payback for Hannah. Season 2 makes it worse when he becomes a frequent target, becomes friends with Cyrus only to lose him due to his own Sanity Slippage and then, after a small hope spot of him returning supposedly cured of his mental problems, he finds his love interest was dating someone else and is brutally beaten and sodomized with a mop pole by Monty and his friends all because his actions cancelled their championship season makes him more sympathetic.
    • Jessica, dear god Jessica. While she herself isn't as saintly as the others, her reasons come off more as just miscommunication and believed rumors and the revelation that Bryce Walker raped her is what lead to her reckless behavior really makes you wanna hug her.
    • Justin, especially when you see his home life.
    • Skye. Yes, she's a bitch to Clay, but it comes off as her being jealous at the fact Clay noticed Hannah more and of course, her own depression and self harm tendencies. This was exemplified with Season 2 where despite the fact she and Clay dated five months after the events of Season 1, she still was suicidal and eventually was sent to a rehabilitation clinic where she'll then move out of California.
    • Surprisingly enough, Monty in Season 3 with the reveal that he's an Armored Closet Gay who's been physically abused all his life by his alcoholic father. Without excusing his actions in the slightest, the show at least gives an explanation for how he turned into such a nasty guy beyond just being cardboard evil.
    • Even Bryce moves into the territory in Season 3 despite the fact that he still does some rather scummy things, as having all his misdeeds laid bare during the trial makes him a social pariah despite his acquittal (which when looking at his perspective can be rather terrifying), and he truly wants to become a better person, but even after starting a consensual sexual relationship he's terrified that he won't be able to resist crossing the line. There's also the issue of his father completely distancing himself, and worrying his mother sees him as the same monster as everyone else. His attempts to reach out to both Jessica and Olivia Baker fall on deaf ears (although for perfectly understandable reasons). He's genuinely shocked when Tyler confesses that Monty raped him and decides to protect him even going as far as to threaten Monty himself. He's blamed by Tony for something his father did. He's a sobbing mess when listening to Hannah's tapes and even makes one of his own for everyone else to apologize for his past misdeeds. And of course all this is in flashbacks because he's been murdered (after his arm was broken and both of his legs were shattered before he was pushed into a river where he eventually drowned), ending any chance of doing anything meaningful with his life beyond being a rapist.
  • Launcher of a Thousand Ships: Clay. He gets shipped with Hannah, Tony, Sherri, Skye, Alex, Jessica, Zach. Just about anyone who isn't a scrappy is shipped with Clay.
  • Love to Hate: Bryce. Despite being a firm Hate Sink, Bryce shows a level of charisma and pragmatism (at least as charismatic as a serial rapist with no real redeeming qualities can be) that makes the audience just love loathing him, especially compared to the more openly spiteful, Ax-Crazy, Stupid Evil Monty. Gets even more complicated in Season 3 though.

    M - T 
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • "X deserves better", which has been a fandom cry by the fans of the show who feel the characters deserve a better happy ending.
    • "JUSTICE FOR JEFF", since fans grew to love Jeff to the point of Ensemble Dark Horse and shock at his tragic death. It's beginning to reach Barb levels, and that's saying something.
    • 'Fuck off Courtney', which was said by Ryan to Courtney in 'Tape 6, Side B' with her constant attempts to not take the blame for Hannah's death. It's become fans' own snarky comment to Courtney due to her character becoming unlikable considering her treatment of Hannah.
    • "Welcome to your tape" jokes as a reaction to petty slights have become quite popular, but have also faced backlash for trivializing suicide and feeding into the same toxic line of "she's overreacting" reasoning that led Hannah to kill herself in the first place.
    • "Thirteen Reasons Why X", mainly due to the fact the title ends with "why", which would lead a specific phrase.
    • "So you see, that's where the trouble began. That smile. That damn smile." became a template used with othre fictional characters' smiles, such as The Joker.
    • "Fourteen Reasons Why"/"Twelve Reasons Why", where something seen by the creator as negative/positive respectfully is posed below the series title, with the aforementioned title change being posted after.
  • Moral Event Horizon: Bryce raping Jessica and Hannah and having absolutely no remorse about it. Justin's role in Jessica's rape is seen as this by some people in universe and out of it as well. Also, some people's (namely Courtney and Marcus') will to side with a rapist to protect their own asses might be seen as the point of no return for them - though it's mostly because of them being unwilling to redeem themselves.
    • Any sympathy that the viewers had toward Monty and the crew after Bryce ditched them due to leaving the school is thrown out of the window when they confront Tyler in the bathroom and brutally beat him, stick his head in the toilet, and sodomize him with a mop handle because of his hand in exposing Bryce costing them their championship season. He could have crossed it earlier when he gave a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown on Alex, attempted to kill Clay, sent a gun, bullet, and shooting diagram to Alex (who is still recovering from a suicide attempt), or when he happily watched Bryce rape Hannah and did nothing.
  • Narm:
    • Clay stealing Tony's walkman in the first episode is shot and framed so dramatically, it almost feels like the show is trying to present it as a Moral Event Horizon for Clay.
    • Olivia screaming about how no-one knows her daughter's favorite or least favorite flowers, as if this is something they're realistically supposed to know.
    • Some more serious parts of Episode 4 are left looking very odd by the fact that it's a Halloween Episode and everyone's in costume.
    • Marcus attempting to have a serious conversation with Clay outside of Tyler's house while wearing a ridiculous light-up sombrero.
    • Clay's Sanity Slippage in Episode 7 due to its persistent usage of the Imagine Spot.
    • Some viewers find it distracting that some of these "high schoolers" have tattoos all over their bodies, some close to a dozen and highly visible. This is illegal in the state of California and would result in child protective service investigations. The Season 2 premiere does try to hand wave it by implying that Skye uses a fake ID, as she buys one for Clay to get a tattoo.
    • Tyler being sodomized by mop pole is this for some.
    • A lot of the dialogue can come across as unrealistic to some viewers. Tony in particular is presented as an almost sage-like figure, to the point where many people believed him to be a figment of Clay's imagination, and his actor actually had to come out and shoot down the theory by pointing out how many times Tony interacts with others. Clay even lampshades this in-universe by calling Tony an “unhelpful Yoda.”
    • Some decisions the characters make range from ridiculous at best, to absolutely ludicrous at worst. The most egregious example would probably be Justin flat-out suggesting that they murder Clay and make it look like a suicide. Like the example above, this is lampshaded in-universe as ridiculously over-the-top.
    • The sequence in which Tony has Clay free-solo an outdoor wall that is around 50 feet high when Clay admits to have never climbed anything before —- even indoors. It’s hard enough to believe that Tony can solo this perfectly, let alone an unathletic kid with no climbing experience, shoes or overall outdoor know-how. Just his buddy and some chalk. Doubles as a Big-Lipped Alligator Moment as it really has nothing to do with the narrative and just gives the show an excuse to do a cool outdoor sequence and make things feel action-packed and high-stakes for a few minutes, and give Clay a weird revelation at the end.
    • For some viewers, the presence of 'ghost Hannah' in Season 2. For a show that is all about presenting a gritty and realistic look at teen suicide and bullying, it can seem rather jarring and out-of-place when Clay suddenly starts seeing Hannah's ghost everywhere. He actually has entire conversations with her (including in public) and the sheer bizarreness can cause many of their interactions to border on or become outright comedic even when they're supposed to be dramatic or somber. It doesn't help that it's left up in the air as to whether Clay is really seeing Hannah's ghost, if it's purely symbolic, some kind of coping mechanism for Clay, or if he's suffering from schizophrenia or a similar disorder. The surrealness of it can feel rather tonally off compared to the rest of the show and/or a contrived excuse to give Hannah more screentime despite her being dead, making it difficult for some viewers to take it seriously.
  • Narm Charm: Hannah, Jessica, and Alex all say "FML forever" as their Catchphrase. It's quite silly and overdramatic, but still manages to work.
  • No Such Thing as Bad Publicity: The myriad of attacks the show has gotten, from in-depth critiques to the occasional troll, have only made the show more widely-known if no less controversial. Special points when its actors/actresses claim the show could "trigger" some viewers despite the obvious subject matter being a big Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped, which makes it more glaring considering Episode 9 onwards puts trigger warnings.
  • One-Scene Wonder:
    • Mrs Antili, the overly perky and slightly Misplaced Kindergarten Teacher of a Guidance Counsellor. Only appears in Episode 2 but makes a lasting impression.
    • Hannah's friend Kat is only in the first episode, but comes Back for the Finale. And she's only featured in the party scene. But her actress has lots of charisma and she's instantly believable as the Lovable Alpha Bitch.
  • Periphery Demographic: Like the original book, the series has been well-received by many outside its "intended" young adult audience.
  • Rescued from the Scrappy Heap:
    • A lot of fans seem to be forgiving Ryan after he delivered his infamous "Fuck off Courtney" line, along with constantly snarking at her for her Jerkass behavior, along with the fact she is trying to hide behind a rapist.
    • Jessica garnered a lot more sympathy once it was revealed she was raped by Bryce and the others have essentially been Gaslighting her about it. She also starts to redeem herself towards the end of the season - and the following episodes amp up her cruel treatment at the hands of the jocks and the rest of the school, turning her into a full fledged Woobie (see below).
    • Within the first episode of Season 2, Mr Porter corners Bryce in the bathroom, physically threatens him and warns him that he will be destroyed if he tries anything. He also threatens to have a baseball player suspended from the team for making a rape joke. He's definitely become The Atoner and has gotten off to a good start.
    • Courtney is one of the few people to completely come clean in her testimony for the lawsuit, rather than let the defense attorney continue to smear Hannah's reputation.
    • Justin became more sympathetic once his shitty home life was revealed - though he still had plenty of detractors for allowing Bryce to rape Jessica and later trying to hide it from her. Come Season 2 and he's put through the Trauma Conga Line with his heroin addiction. But he also takes steps to redeem himself, coming to Clay's defence several times and testifying against Bryce, with the full knowledge that he could be convicted as an accessory. Come the Season 2 finale and Clay adopts him as a brother.
    • After the events of Season's 1 and 2 painted Clay as a Designated Hero, a Base-Breaking Character, and Unintentionally Unsympathetic, his character becomes much better in Season 3 especially when he shows Tyler some much needed love and support after he tells him he was raped by Monty.
    • Tyler, in universe, during season three. In the video he made he talks about not just feeling alone but feeling rejected, and there's no denying that for many characters that was the case, but during the course of the third season he is welcomed into the group and many of the people who disliked him previously grow to not only understand him better but genuinely care for him.
  • The Scrappy:
    • Unlike most of the characters, like Justin or Jessica (who are given sympathetic back stories), most really hate Marcus and Courtney due to being assholes who act nice and kind, especially considering how Marcus originally started off as a Lovable Jock next to Jeff. Unlike Zach, though, who feels guilt over his involvement in Hannah's death, Marcus shows zero remorse if it means to protect his image. Especially more glaring is the fact he tried to sexually assault Hannah in public and acts like her rejection of his behavior was a bad thing and the fact he lies at his deposition makes it worse, along with his disregard of his friends and how he holds himself as the brains of the group when Justin and Jessica are dealing with their own problems. And unlike other characters who garner some karma for their actions (especially when Clay leaks the tapes around episode 8), Marcus suffers no karma other than being suspended from school and doesn't appear again, even getting the last laugh by leaking Tyler's number as karma for his and Cyrus's blackmail.
    • Courtney has gathered immense fan hatred due to her refusal to take blame in Hannah's passing, but what really set fans into anger was trying to hide behind Bryce Walker as a means to not take blame for Hannah's death and constantly saying she did it for attention. Even the group felt disgusted, which led to Ryan's aforementioned "Fuck off, Courtney" line. She eventually joined the Rescued from the Scrappy Heap after realizing the error of her ways and not only came clean about how Hannah was a true friend to her, but even came out as a lesbian.
    • Tyler is this In-Universe, due to being the Camera Fiend and his stalking of Courtney. While Courtney's hatred is understandable, everyone else (especially from Monty) shows immense hatred towards him, which is possibly what will lead to him shooting up the school in Season 2.
    • Mr. Porter also seems to be very disliked within the community due to being a prime example of Adults Are Useless. While he is a Deconstruction of the usual "useless" adult who was way out of his league compared to what he dealt with his last school and arguably didn't know much of what he could have done, he's still very disliked because of his lack of action. The fact he's listed as the final reason that lead to Hannah ended her life didn't help matters either. He got better with Season 2.
    • Pratts and Monty are very disliked for being one-dimensional assholes, Pratts especially for how he doesn't want to hear about suicide because it affects him. Monty became this more in Season 2 due to his borderline The Sociopath mentality with being the one harassing the shit out of Alex and the others, and his unapologetic, egotistical nature, especially after the infamous mop pole rape of Tyler.
    • The school's attorney Sonya became very hated due to her obsession with constantly painting Hannah as a lying slut and constantly interrupting and condescending the characters during their hearings made her this. This was not helped by her Smug Snake status.
    • Ani, who is introduced in season three, serving as the Character Narrator, much like Hannah was in seasons one through two. She became a quick Replacement Scrappy, but there's also some Character Shilling involved. She becomes Clay’s new love interest, Jessica’s new best friend, Bryce’s new confidant, just to name a few. She seems to just intuitively be able to tell who each character is after just meeting them, somehow knows everybody’s secrets, and is the only one capable of seeing the good in Bryce. Despite not having been there for any of the events of the first two seasons she is heavily invested in the connecting storylines and treated by the other characters as if she’s an important part of the group. Episode seven also has her being afraid of Clay but happy to get into bed with Bryce, the guy she knows has raped her best friend.
    • Jess’s feminist friend Casey, for being annoying, being rude to Tyler, despite not knowing he had been raped, and for being a typical Straw Feminist.
  • Seasonal Rot:
    • The show's second season was incredibly polarizing compared to the first in quality. To start with, many viewers believed that an extension of the story beyond the original plot was unnecessary. On its own merits, the second season was also criticized by some for clunky writing, plot fluff, and arguably being more narmy and exploitative than the first season. For reference, the first season’s Rotten Tomatoes score was 80% among both critics and audiences, while the second’s was just 28% for critics and 58% for audiences.
    • The show's third season received overwhelmingly negative reviews, with the shift to a murder mystery widely panned as unwise and the increased melodrama heavily criticized. It scored a paltry 7% on Rotten Tomatoes, a far cry from the first season.
  • Shocking Swerve: The revelation in Season 2 that Hannah and Zach had a full-blown relationship for around two to three months the summer before she killed herself, to the point of losing their virginities to each other. This was in no way, shape or form alluded to or hinted at in the first season. It retroactively makes many of their interactions in Season 1 rather bizarre, as they act more like they're acquaintances rather than exes; Zach also seems pretty detached and indifferent about Hannah's suicide until he gets a tape, even though she was his girlfriend and he arguably knew her better than both Clay and Alex, who both have breakdowns over her death. It also seems very weird that Hannah didn't mention any of this on her tapes.
  • Signature Scene: Hannah's suicide and Clay's famous tirade halfway in the show that showcases not only a "The Reason You Suck" Speech to the people who caused Hannah's death (and by some extent, Liberty High, for their lack of involvement to help her) and his own Sanity Slippage to the loss of his friend/crush and the fact he arguably may have played a part in her death.
  • So Bad, It's Good: The show in general has a sizable Hate Dom of people who find the premise of the show and how seriously everyone involved takes it as inherently hilarious. The second season especially not only cultivated a Hate Dom but a sizable following of people who enjoyed many of the more far-fetched or exploitative plot twists.
  • Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped:
    • How the creators feel regarding Hannah's graphic suicide and how it was filmed. Word of God said that sometimes, TV shows have a habit of shooting suicide scenes in a romanticized fashion, with somber music and artful shots, when suicide is just the opposite. The same justification was offered for the equally-graphic rape scenes, with a point made to not make the scenes titillating like such scenes in other media often are.
    • Despite the controversy surrounding how Hannah's suicide was portrayed, pretty much everyone praised the show for its nuanced Deconstruction of issues like bullying and sexism and the effects that seemingly small and petty actions can have on a person, especially misogynistic microaggressions such as Slut-Shaming.
    • Empathy. The story has its flaws, but it makes abundantly clear that while at least some of the people on the tapes may not have intended to be actively malicious, none of them thought about how their actions would hurt other people before they did them. If they had cared about the consequences beyond how it affected themselves, then Hannah might still be alive.
    Tony: "Hannah got hurt. It happens. You never really know what's gonna hit how. You really don't know what's going on in someone else's life."
  • Strawman Has a Point:
    • When Hannah goes to Mr. Porter to talk about her rape, she refuses to name Bryce as the attacker and doesn't want to press charges. Yeah, his handling of the situation was less than perfect and could be seen as Victim Blaming, but if she won't name the person, and won't press charges, there's absolutely nothing that Mr. Porter can do except get her help (which he does fail at).
    • Marcus may have been simply trying to cover his ass, but he did have a point when he claimed that Hannah's plan of telling people they played a part in her suicide is "fucked up."
    • Not really related to the broader context of the story, but Marcus makes a good point that shows that despite being a Manipulative Bastard, he's fairly tuned-in to issues of justice and equality (when he wants to be). When Bryce says that Marcus, student council president, shouldn't worry about buying weed on campus because Bryce does all the time and he's captain of the football team, Marcus sternly says that "the rules are different for you and I." He's most likely referring to the fact that he is black, while Bryce is white (and rich as hell, though we don't know that Marcus isn't rich).
    • It doesn't justify what she does to Hannah, but Courtney's will to stay closeted isn't respected at all by anyone (except, it would seem, Hannah). Her pain about the discrimination her fathers faced draws her sympathy from the audience but it's easy to forget it soon after since she shows her worst side, but she still very much has a point – it's not easy, and she panicked. Regardless of how awful Courtney is, seeing Ryan, Clay and Alex try to goad her out of the closet can strike a harsh tone.
      • Even then, it's worth knowing that in order to stay in the closet, she's willingly and actively try to convince people that Hannah was lying about the tapes including what happened at Jessica's party and what happened with Hannah and Bryce. At one point, she even explicitly tells Jessica (who's beginning to doubt that they were lies) that they were in fact lies. Ryan's quick to point this out.
    • Clay, when he yells at Hannah after Jeff's death. Hannah may have had a good point, but Clay had no idea, and Hannah did have a tendency to make things all about herself. While it's unfortunate that the one time Clay tried to call her out on being so dramatic, he should have listened, it also wouldn't have hurt if she'd chosen a better, less dramatic means of communication.
  • Take That, Scrappy!:
    • Ryan's "fuck off Courtney" comment.
    • Although it comes before Courtney's worse deeds, Mrs Baker gets a good one in on her too. She walks by the memorial to Hannah and icily tells Courtney that Hannah didn't like the flowers she's picked - essentially telling her that she would know that if she actually had been friends with her daughter.
    • Kat also refers to Bryce as "frat boy Darth Vader".
    • Marcus getting snarked at by Clay, Alex, and Monty during the Honor Council hearing.
    • While she's no more than a Base-Breaking Character, Alex gets a good dig on Hannah in the third episode of Season 2. A flashback to the night she found out he and Jessica were dating has him snark "not everything's always about you, you know".
    • In Sheri's return in Season 2 Mr Porter offers her help. She responds by snarking that she'll come and see him if she's ever raped.
    • Alex pulling a gun on Montgomery during the group's confrontation with him in "The Box of Polaroids".
    • Justin's "Fuck you" comment to Ani in 3x07.
    • Winston calling out Ani for framing Monty for Bryce's murder in the Season 3 finale.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character:
    • As noted here many fans were annoyed that Sheri was so Out of Focus in Season 2. No attempt is made to explore her Ship Tease with Clay from the previous season, and she pretty much disappears after the eleventh episode.
    • Jackie, the anti-bullying advocate, only reveals a bit about her history, not much is known about her motivation (which, while righteous, comes off as unnerving to Dennis, Olivia and Andy). Her leaving is never explained either.
    • With Marcus being Demoted to Extra for most of Season 2 in order to focus on more developed and likeable characters, we miss out on some stuff that was teased out. For example, in his testimony episode, we meet Marcus's dad, an ambitious politician who pushes Marcus to succeed and makes him keenly aware that as a black man, he has to out-perform his every white counterpart and then some. Then he calls Bryce a rapist publicly, is suspended and we never hear from him again, wondering what kind of consequences and development he could possibly face.

    U - W 
  • Unfortunate Implications:
    • Listing all the articles describing how the show/book can be construed as "romanticizing suicide" (among other things) would take too long. Many experts advise that parents of young people watching should at least have a conversation about the events in the show. An article in Psychology Today weighed in too, arguing that it severely misrepresents the entire issue to the point that, even if someone walks away wanting to help or get help, the show has done nothing to equip them for this. Some points of particular criticism are the idea that suicide is a "blame game" primarily driven by external factors and downplaying the severity of mental illness (while external factors absolutely play a role, internal ones do as well and are important to not overlook like the show did). Additionally, it argues that the show fails to paint alternative options that Hannah could have taken, often due to the actions or incompetence of those around her, and spends little time emphasizing various coping methods or the importance of professional help, ultimately ending up with an aesop that's closer to "Being kind to others can stop them from committing suicide" (which is both overly simplistic and also, once again, places more autonomy in the hands of others than the victim himself or herself in terms of getting help).
      • The crew took notice of this, and Season 2 opens with a PSA from several of the actors laying out some of the tricky subjects you're about to see, and warn that if you're struggling with them yourself, you might want to turn the show off and have some serious discussions about them first.
    • The way the show handles the school shooting plot in Season 2 has attracted some criticism, especially considering the real-life prevalence of such tragedies in the US. It's considered quite problematic and irresponsible to have the main protagonist Clay confront the would-be shooter outside the school ball and try to talk him down which is ultimately successful. Even Dylan Minnette and the experts the show's writers consulted admitted this was an extremely dangerous thing to do and that the correct response in such a situation would be to warn other people, lock down the building and contact the authorities; approaching a mentally unstable person with a loaded gun and the intention of committing murder is a very bad idea, even if you are acquainted with the person. It further carries the implication that simply being 'kind' to school shooters can prevent tragedies, which unrealistically glosses over the far more complex reasons people commit such crimes. The plotline was also criticized for presenting Tyler sympathetically, with his motives for trying to murder his teachers and classmates being revenge and trauma over being bullied; the catalyst for the shooting was Tyler being sexually assaulted, carrying the implication that school shooters are just victims pushed too far and that the actual victims of shootings are in some way to blame for the violence. In real life, the idea that most school shooters are bullied outcasts who eventually snap is actually a popular myth.
    • Bryce’s arc in Season 3 and his relationship with Ani have been criticized for this. The show attempts to portray Bryce in a grayer light than previous seasons; he starts to feel some remorse for his crimes while struggling with having to move to a new school, his parents' divorce and being shunned by most people. He also pursues a more equal and respectful relationship with Ani compared to his previous relationships, with Ani believing that Bryce isn't all bad and could become a better person. However, it has been pointed out that trying to make Bryce more sympathetic potentially undermines the show's message about the seriousness of sexual assault; despite being a Serial Rapist and brutal bully who traumatized several people and contributed to one of his victims taking her own life, the worst punishment Bryce got was three months probation. He gets a second chance at life while his victim, Hannah, will never have this opportunity. It doesn't help that Bryce's personal struggles are given far more screentime than that of his victims' (Jessica and Chloe really only get one episode each focusing on them, while the other girls Bryce assaulted don't appear). The fact that his attempts to make amends seems to be triggered less by a Heel Realization and more by the fact he hates being ostracized by peers, and that he continues to treat others poorly throughout the season, makes his motives come off as rather selfish and Unintentionally Unsympathetic to some viewers. Meanwhile, Bryce's relationship with Ani has also attracted criticism for coming off as a classic case of I Can Change My Beloved; Ani pursues a relationship with Bryce despite being warned to stay away from him, emotionally supports him, is physically intimate with him and defends him to others even though she knows what he's done because she believes there's good in him no one else can see; on Bryce's side, it can come off as him being rewarded with sex simply for having the common decency to not rape or abuse Ani like he did with almost every other girl he interacts with. While Ani does end up distancing herself from Bryce after seeing his more unpleasant side first hand, some have argued that it's never really presented as wrong or misguided of her to have put herself at risk to act as an emotional crutch for a serial rapist, which they argue sends a very unhealthy or downright dangerous message to viewers. Some have also pointed out that Ani's attempts to defend Bryce can come across as downplaying the severity of his actions and even echo the arguments of rape apologists at times, which comes off as particularly tone-deaf in a show like this.
  • Unintentionally Sympathetic:
    • When we see the act that got Justin on the tapes, him spreading the suggestive photo of Hannah around the school, we see that Bryce took his phone and sent the photo around while he tried to get it back. Later on, when Hannah blames him for Jessica being raped by Bryce, she overlooks the fact that he's absolutely drunk and has no idea what's happening (and even then, he still tries to stop it before Bryce shuts him up), but Hannah acts as though he raped Jessica himself. While he should've deleted the photo of Hannah, and him leaving Jessica is up for interpretation, the fact is that he's on the tapes for something he didn't actually do.
    • Casey in Season 3. She's supposed to be a Straw Feminist, and, yes, crashing Bryce's funeral is a dick move, but Bryce raping both Hannah and Jessica was actually a large part of the reason Hannah was Driven to Suicide in the first place. With Season 3 doing the very base-breaking action of making us feel some sympathy for Bryce, a serial rapist, it can often feel like Casey is one of few characters who remembers what absolute carnage Bryce's monstrous actions caused.
  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic:
    • Season One saw a small niche of critics and bloggers who found Clay a bit problematic at times. While he definitely suffered from a Sanity Slippage throughout the season and was grieving the loss of two friends, he engaged in some pretty terrible behaviour, not limited to circulating actual child pornography with his revenge photo of Tyler and deeply disturbing Courtney by taking her to Hannah's grave and essentially telling her she caused Hannah's death. Instead of asking Courtney questions and inviting her to talk, he accuses her, and condescendingly tells her, an Asian lesbian with two gay dads, that she has no reason to be afraid of coming out because it's the 21st century.
    • This view of Clay really ramped up in Season 2, practically bordering on hatedom among older viewers and online critics. Many saw Clay's likeability drop significantly in this season, from the very first episode. When he began having visions of Hannah, rather than be even partially honest with Skye, he flat-out lied and told her he "never thought about" Hannah. He spent most of the season badgering Jessica into going forward about her assault, not because it would help her but because it would help Hannah's case. He didn't even grasp basic Feminism 101 concepts – like the fact that Hannah was allowed to be interested in (and have sex with) guys who weren't him. Much of Clay's torment that season was caused by himself. Even in the very first episode, he becomes upset simply because Tyler told a story about Hannah he refused to believe. As the season goes on, Clay also lashes out at Justin while in recovery (even implies that he hates him right after Justin has saved his life), tries to pressure Sherri into going back to the clubhouse despite being clearly disturbed by it, and treats his own incredibly supportive parents like dirt (he flat-out tells them to get him a car). Hell, he's even a jerk to Hannah's ghost.
    • Jessica becomes this in Season 3 when she gets back together with Justin instead of Alex purely because of how he understands her body and does sex better than Alex does (even though she now knows that Justin was involved in her being sexually assaulted). She also proves to be a hypocrite by deciding to ban male aggressive sports because she claims it promotes sexism and rape culture, despite the fact that she's with a jock who let her get raped and said nothing about it for months. Many people called her out on his (including Alex and even Justin himself) and even she calls herself out on it but she ultimately does nothing about it. Lastly, she was never called out on keeping the secret that Alex killed Bryce even though Clay was about to go to jail for that reason.
    • Even Alex falls into this due to him being Bryce's killer. While Bryce is far from a saint and Alex does show some regret when listening to his tape, Bryce was trying to become a better person. Also, murdering him by pushing him into a river and watching him drown after he was beaten to a bloody pulp and had both of his legs broken by Zach was utterly cruel. Lastly he was initially willing to let Clay and Zach take the fall for said murder, and ultimately lets Ani and the others pin it on Monty. His murder of Bryce also means that he can never be truly brought to justice legally for his crimes, especially considering he was finally grasping the gravity of his crimes and had actually confessed on tape to raping Jessica and several other girls.
    • The show attempts to make the audience sympathize with Bryce Walker of all people in the third season. While he does seem to feel some remorse and attempts to make amends for his actions, many viewers felt it was far too little, too late. For the first two seasons, Bryce has been portrayed as nothing but a selfish, arrogant and entitled Serial Rapist, who left Jessica traumatised and was the catalyst for Hannah killing herself, on top of being a violent bully as well, who never expresses any remorse for the lives he's ruined. He gets off pretty lightly for the rapes and unlike some of the other characters he has no real Freudian Excuse that might make him more sympathetic; he's just so self-absorbed and used to getting his own way he feels he can do whatever he wants. As a result, a lot of viewers had a very hard time sympathizing with him in any way; many people doubted the sincerity of his remorse seeing as he continues to act in scummy ways such as traumatizing a young boy, and breaking Zach's leg out of spite, or felt that he had long since passed the Moral Event Horizon to warrant any pity. Hell, even Justin Prentice himself thought that Bryce was beyond redemption.
    • In addition to Bryce, Season 3 tries to make us feel bad for Monty, too, who is about on par with Bryce in terms of loathsomeness. He's yet another sadistic Jerk Jock and bully, who actually witnessed Bryce raping Hannah but did nothing to intervene, later wages a campaign of terror on Bryce's many victims to try and silence them and becomes a rapist himself, brutally assaulting Tyler... because he inadvertantly got the championship season cancelled (to the point where even Bryce himself was disgusted when he found out about it and warned him to stay away from Tyler). Season 3 gives him a Freudian Excuse by showing more scenes with his abusive father and revealing that he is deep in the closet, but many viewers felt this wasn't enough to make us pity such a vile character, especially considering he still does crappy things throughout the third season such as beating up a person he slept with because he thinks people will realize he's gay purely from Winston talking to him. Also, while Bryce at least shows remorse for his actions and at least tries to change and become a better man, Monty only apologizes to Winston for beating him up and doesn't show any remorse for his past actions (one of them being raping Tyler with a mop pole) nor does he make any attempt to change.
    • Ani, who was introduced into the show in Season Three. Although she doesn't do anything remotely as horrible as Bryce or Monty, she does take some actions that many viewers found rather morally questionable. She's not only very sympathetic towards Bryce Walker, she's even happy to have sex with him despite knowing he's raped multiple girls (among other nasty things) and that one of his victims was Jessica, who is supposed to be her best friend. For the same reason, viewers also found her to be a bit of a hypocrite in that she's fine hanging around with Bryce — a violent and repeat sex offender — but says she's afraid to be around Clay, her other supposed best friend, because he's suspected (wrongly) of killing Bryce. Ani is also viewed as unsympathetic for continually defending Bryce, insisting he was trying to become a better person (with very mixed results) and even suggesting that Clay and the others are wrong for judging Bryce solely for "the worst thing [he] did"; the fact that she's making these arguments to Clay and co makes her seem particularly insensitive and delusional, seeing as they all knew Bryce much longer than she has and suffered greatly at his hands either directly or indirectly. It's also revealed she's spent the whole season lying to the police to protect Alex, whom she finds out murdered Bryce and sets up Monty for it.
  • Wangst:
    • The expanded focus on the present-day story can make you irritated with Clay, as he keeps whining about how he needs answers, when they were literally delivered right to him and all he needs to do is keep listening (and everyone he talks to keeps telling him to do it).
    • Courtney considering her reasoning for spreading the rumor about Hannah was to hide the fact she's gay. It comes off as sympathetic, but goes hard to Unintentionally Unsympathetic as it goes on, especially in 'Tape 6, Side B'.
  • What an Idiot!: Clay carves an apparent message from Hannah into Zach's car, thinking no one would know who did it. Yeah, he couldn't possibly suspect the guy who's currently listening to the tapes, and who's caused a ton of problems for them already. Of course, he also wasn't exactly in the best state of mind.
    • By listening to the tapes in such a slow pace, while bothering the ones on the tapes with questions, he gets the attention of the persons who want to hide the truth. This gives them the time to formulate plans to sabotage him, like putting weed in his backpack. Had Clay listened to the tape in one sitting, he could have started much earlier with his plans to seek justice for Hannah without giving the other's the opportunity to counteract. Moreover, he was sitting on evidence for weeks, which is even lampshaded by Tony.
    • Again Clay in season 2. He has a box of polaroids with incrimating evidence that the jocks rape and abuse girls in the Clubhouse. Furthermore, he knows that people trying to silence him and ensure that the jocks are not brought to task. So you would expect he stores the polaroids somewhere safely in a vault and make (digital) copies of them as well. Nope, he leaves them on the backseat of his car in plain sight. Naturally, they are stolen from there.
  • What Do You Mean, It's for Kids?: The series is aimed at teenagers but deals with some pretty dark and distressing subject matter that even some adults find hard to deal with, namely suicide and rape. The violence in the show gets pretty graphic, including showing the entirety of Hannah's suicide and three rape scenes (which we also get flashbacks to). The show's content earned it a TV-MA rating on Netflix, meaning that anyone under 18 — aka, the target audience should probably only watch the show accompanied by a parent/guardian, if at all.
  • The Woobie:
    • Courtney in this adaptation is a closeted lesbian who made a drunken pass at Hannah, and got a picture taken of it and spread around the entire school by a peeping tom. Although the two girls could never be identified, it's horrible to think of what the poor girl had to go through — knowing that such a picture was being circulated around, living in fear that someone might discover her secret, although she tends to go into Unintentionally Unsympathetic as it progresses, to the point of scrappydom. Courtney manages to shake this off in Season 2 by confessing on the stand and redeeming herself. Whatever she did, being forced to come out by an aggressive attorney is bound to have been distressing.
    • Considering that the people in the tapes are seen in more than just Hannah's recollections and Clay's (at the time troubled) recollections, a few of the named people can count. Alex is a kid who did something out of spite that he didn't expect to hurt Hannah. When he finds out his role in things, he's so shaken that he ends up attempting suicide. Tyler is constantly bullied by everyone, including the people who are literally in the same boat as he is. The only person to show him any form of kindness is Alex. Jessica was a scorned lover of Alex's who jumped to conclusions, ending her friendship with Hannah, and is eventually raped and lied to about it by everyone. While none of this excuses their actions, it's arguably the point of the series/book. You don't have to be vicious or even bad to hurt someone.
    • Of course, Hannah. While she jumps from Jerkass Woobie to Iron Woobie, she definitely cannot catch a break as her life spirals down until she finally says screw it and ends her life, leaving behind the titular 13 reasons as to why she ended it.
    • Hannah's parents, especially her mother. They exemplify the horrible Adult Fear of two loving parents dealing with the tragic death of their daughter despite the fact they've always been there for her. Olivia gets even worse in Season 2, as she and Andy have split up and he's seeing someone else. She even kept the dress she was wearing when she found Hannah's body and never washed it.
    • Clay obviously.
    • Jessica goes from Jerkass Woobie to full on Woobie in Season 2, as the entire school has turned Bryce's rape of her into a story about her being a jealous slut. What's more is that she has to go to school every day to look her rapist in the eye while he acts like he did nothing wrong.
    • Bryce Walker's mother Nora, is this. Unlike her husband, she continually doubted her son's innocence. When he confessed it to her in a condescending manner, she despised her son for what he did, though understandably still stood by her son. She has to live with the pain of knowing he was a rapist for the rest of her life. Only compounded by the fact that he's murdered in Season 3, and therefore having to live with the pain of outliving her son.
    • Winston. He's a gay kid from Hillcrest who hooks up with Monty at a party, and seems to genuinely like him. When he tries to talk to Monty on his way out of the party, Monty furiously beats him up out of fear that people will realise he's gay. Despite this, Winston doesn't call the cops or even out Monty (though he did make Bryce pay him seven grand). They hooked up again on the night of Bryce's murder, so Winston knew he was innocent and was appalled that Clay and co. let him take the fall.
    • Tyler. He's bullied by everybody, even those that did even worse things than him. It gets so bad that he starts to consider a school-shooting. Then when he starts to get better he immediately gets worse when Monty rapes him. After that he almost carried out said school-shooting, but was talked out of it by Clay. Even after that he's still bullied and harassed by Monty.

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